Is the Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet Mantra a Myth?

Discussion in 'Food and nutrition' started by TC, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. TC

    TC Guest

    In the fight against fat, Noreen Hunter is a battle-scarred veteran.
    For most of her life she has struggled to lose weight with one low-fat
    diet after another.

    Hunter, 46, did lose weight, but she always gained it back. In the past
    year alone she has regained 50 pounds. No wonder she's thrown in the
    towel and is now trying a diet that seems sinful. It's high in fat and
    low in carbohydrates.

    But to do this, she's had to get over years of brainwashing that says
    fat is bad. "You have to de-program yourself to thinking in a different
    way, that maybe something else is going to work."

    Hunter is part of a diet revolution that is sweeping the country.
    That's because for the past 30 years, while Americans have been
    religiously following low-fat diets, they've actually been getting

    But "What If Fat Doesn't Make You Fat?" asks science writer Gary Taubes
    in a recent New York Times article in which he addresses what he
    considers the bad science that's lured millions to low-fat diets.

    "What we believe to be true with such certainty could just be a sort of
    mass delusion, wishful thinking that the medical establishment
    inflicted on us, and it just snowballed," Taubes told 20/20 in an
    interview with ABCNEWS medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson.

    A Myth in the Making

    "The theory was that a low-fat/high-carb diet would control weight and
    help prevent killer diseases. But most of the studies that followed
    actually failed to show a direct link between fat in the diet and heart
    disease and cancer. But by then it was too late - even science
    couldn't shake the prevailing wisdom that all fats are bad, and all
    carbs are good," explained Johnson.

    By investigating the genesis of this theory, Taubes found that the
    government's initial decision 30 years ago to promote low-fat diets was
    not based on recommendations from doctors or scientists, but rather
    from lawyers who worked for Sen. George McGovern in the mid-1970s.

    "They come out with this document and it just sets this ball rolling
    where finally some government body is telling Americans to eat less fat
    and eat more carbohydrates," Taubes said.

    With the release of the government's "Food Pyramid" in the early 1990s,
    it was official: the low-fat/high-carb diet was America's food plan.

    At the pyramid's base are the foods considered the staple of the
    healthy low-fat diet: refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, rice
    and pasta. At the narrow top - indicating that they should be used
    sparingly, if at all: fats and oils.

    Fat: Friend or Foe?

    There were, however, some lonely voices of opposition.

    For one, Dr. Robert Atkins, the now-deceased low-carb guru, said the
    government had it all wrong.

    The Atkins diet approach, which allows unlimited protein and fats
    including meats, cheeses, eggs and butter, eaten along with very
    limited quantities of all types of carbohydrates - even fruits and
    vegetables - is based on the body's ability to switch its metabolism
    from a carb-burning mode to a fat-burning mode once carbs are

    Most nutritional experts are wary of Atkins' extreme recommendations
    because of the dramatic, and possibly hazardous, changes his diet can
    have on the body. Among the many concerns are possible vitamin
    deficiencies, dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney, heart
    and gallbladder disease.

    "We need to know much more before people start making claims. ...
    Shouldn't diet doctors prove safety first, rather than write books and
    then say 'OK, prove harm,'" comments Keith Ayoob, spokesperson for the
    American Dietetic Association and associate professor of pediatrics at
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

    Striking a Dietary Balance

    In the last decade, however, several leading nutritional scientists
    have begun to think Atkins may have neen partly right about
    carbohydrates, and scientists are now finally studying whether low-fat
    diets really work.

    "I think it's quite clear that he's onto something important. It does
    seem that this substantial reduction in carbohydrate for many people
    does make it easier to control their diet over the long run," says Dr.
    Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard
    School of Public Health.

    Moreover, following the low-fat/high-carb diet of the U.S.D.A. Food
    Pyramid may not only make it difficult to control weight, it could
    actually be dangerous, according to Willett.

    "The dietary pyramid was out of date the day it was printed, but it's
    even more out of date given the evidence that's accrued since that
    time," said Willett. "We have good evidence now that the high intake of
    refined starches and sugars will increase risk of diabetes and heart
    disease," he added.

    Years of diet studies done by Willett and others have apparently found
    that healthy people tend to do two things: they actually increase "good
    fats" and "good carbohydrates" while cutting down on both "bad fats"
    and "bad carbohydrates."

    "And here is the big pay-off from a good fat/good carb diet. Not only
    is it more likely to be healthy. It may also make it easier to control
    our weight. That's because sugars and starches get quickly absorbed
    into our blood stream and lead to sudden spikes in insulin levels -
    which leads to low blood sugars and increased hunger, which make us eat
    more," said Johnson.

    That's why many experts now believe that a diet high in bad carbs
    actually increases the craving for food in people who are obese.

    "These people are actually hungrier than the rest of us. And they're
    hungrier because of the way they metabolize carbohydrates," said

    In 'The Zone'

    For Terri Hill, who weighed more than 200 pounds, success finally came
    with another low-carb diet - The Zone - based on a finely
    controlled balance of good carbs, good fats and lean protein.

    "I felt that this worked better than any of the other diets I had
    tried. And I've been eating this balance [40 percent carbohydrates, 30
    percent fats, and 30 percent proteins] now for four years. I lost 90
    pounds of fat," Hill said. "Your blood sugar levels never go too high
    and never fall too low, but they fall in this nice moderate zone."

    But are low-carb diets right for everyone? Experts agree, there's only
    one way to prove for certain that low-carb is better than low-fat, and
    that's with a long-term, randomized clinical trial.

    Leading obesity researcher Dr. George Blackburn of Beth Israel
    Deaconess Hospital in Boston has funding from the Atkins Foundation for
    such a trial, which will compare a traditional low-fat diet with a
    modified Atkins diet that emphasizes good fats.

    "We don't know whether he's right or not, but at least you know both
    the National Institutes of Health and the Atkins Foundation are
    interested in finding out," Blackburn said.

    "In the meantime, there's plenty of compelling evidence to do the
    following," advised Johnson. "Get rid of the refined starches and
    sugars ... eat more vegetables and fruit, eat lean protein and healthy
    fats. You'll lose weight and feel better and may reduce your risk for
    heart disease."


    Is this not basically what I've been saying in this ng for about five
    years now?

    Apologies will now be gratefully accepted.


  2. Mirek Fidler

    Mirek Fidler Guest

    May I suggest you to verify article date before posting?

    This is 2002 article... before all those low-carb quick-fix dieters
    failed and quit :)

  3. TC wrote:
    > In the fight against fat, Noreen Hunter is a battle-scarred veteran.
    > For most of her life she has struggled to lose weight with one low-fat
    > diet after another.

    Hey Dumb-Dumb,

    Today is 2-09-06.

    So, STOP polluting this ng with your out of date Fat-Farm articles.

    Just thought that the arse, might want to know.